Some would say that the golden age of romantic comedies is over. They don’t make enough money to compete with the tent-pole climate, and the quality of the genre has generally declined, or morphed as it moved into a hybrid of New Age dramedy in a post Judd Apatow world. But every now and then something heartfelt and funny comes along, with the right people, to show us that they still very much have a place. I Want You Back is one of those films.
I Want You Back is predominately told through the lens of two recently-dumped people: Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate). It’s a match made in heaven, as these two have been honing their skills in comedy for over a decade, and their chemistry is apparent as soon as they meet for the first time. Their scheme? To get their exes back by having the other one sabotage their current, post-them relationships.
It’s a simple setup, and it doesn’t take too long to get there. Instead of being too cloying or a slog, it feels like we’re on the journey with Day and Slate. The dialogue is natural, the performances are effortless, and Scott Eastwood and Gina Rodriguez give them just enough to bounce off as the aforementioned exes.
“I Want You Back is predominately told through the lens of two recently-dumped people: Peter (Charlie Day) and Emma (Jenny Slate).”
It’s also not too mean-spirited. I Want You Back does tap into the sap (it’s not afraid of that), but it doesn’t go out of its way to paint anyone in a particularly bad light. That’s where it can hit the hardest for some: showing that people who seem compatible actually aren’t, even if they’ve been together for long periods of time.
Through that journey, we get a lot of obvious cues and Chekov’s guns that will be fired throughout the film. But when you realize them, it’s easier to smile than it is to groan. Again, Day and Slate do a lot of the heavy lifting, putting on their best everyman and everywoman performances to ground the film. There was a chance for I Want You Back to go wrong at nearly every turn. They could have demonized any character for a cheap laugh, but they mostly avoided it. And while I’d be remiss to say there was a “twist,” the story does have a few unexpected (in terms of specifics) turns. It’s just a good-hearted comedy that has a few decent life lessons to impart. In these trying times, it’s easily worth a watch.